Jerusalem: Israel is to join a United Nations rights body with which it has been feuding for years, as a member of its European bloc, an Israeli official said today.
Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, the official confirmed Israeli membership of the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) in the UN Human Rights Council had been approved and a formal invitation was expected shortly.
Israel cut all ties with the Geneva-based council in March 2012 after the body said it would probe how Israeli settlements may be infringing on the rights of Palestinians.
Israel has come under widespread criticism for increasing construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank, including in annexed east Jerusalem.
In January, Israel became the first country to refuse to attend a periodic review of its human rights record, but ended its 18-month boycott in October when ambassador Eviator Manor appeared before the council to defend his country`s record.
Local press reports said Israel had agreed to renew cooperation with the council on condition it be accepted as a member of the WEOG.
Israel has accused the UNHRC of routinely singling it at the council`s annual meetings, as well as passing a number of anti-Israel resolutions.
Although geographically located in Asia, hostile Arab and Muslim states have blocked the Jewish state from joining the Asian group on the 47-member council, leaving it without representation within any geographic grouping.
"We have finally been admitted as a member of a geographic group (in Geneva), which means that our relations with the UN bodies in Geneva will be more or less normalised," the Jerusalem Post quoted an unnamed Israeli official as saying.
"The exclusion and marginalisation from which Israel suffered will start to be removed," the official told the paper.